Fall is for Planting…Ornamental Grasses! But so is Spring…

I’ve written previously of my adoration for ornamental grasses.  A few of you folks in the mid-Atlantic might have heard my “Grasses for the Masses!”  presentation complete with lots of arm-waving. As with most of my talks, there’s usually some sort of interpretive dance involved.

Most of our warm-season ornamental grasses are in full gloriousness at the moment.  Because it’s autumn! ‘Tis the season to purchase, plant, and enjoy ornamental grasses!

Pennisetum 'Karley Rose' - available at a garden center near you!
Pennisetum ‘Karley Rose’ – available at a garden center near you!

Well, not really.  If you’d have purchased and planted them in April or May, you’d only have to do the “enjoy” part now.  And your local grower/garden center would LOVE you for it. But most gardeners overlook containers full of  6″ tall Fescue – which is what a LOT of our best grasses resemble in the spring.  It’s always been challenging to sell “green” in the spring – consumers want to see and buy plants in flower – so nurseries and greenhouses that supply garden centers do their darnedest to provide said blossoms.

Gorgeous grasses at Babikow Greenhouses near Baltimore, MD.
Gorgeous grasses at Babikow Greenhouses near Baltimore, MD.

So we pass over pots full of green grassy things in favor of enticing blooms. Nurseries have picked up on this – many include grasses in their summer/early fall production schedule, making full, fluffy pots for the autumn gardener.  This works o.k. for shorter, compact things like fountain grass, little bluestem, etc.   But by September, majestic switchgrass, big bluestem, and the like rarely look that fabulous in a one or two gallon pot – the proportions aren’t right; a bit of wind and rain and the situation is ripe for floppage (closely related to splayage). So you’ll probably pass them over. Again.  Or maybe…take a second look? Just cut them back and plant away – you’ll enjoy them NEXT fall.

9 thoughts on “Fall is for Planting…Ornamental Grasses! But so is Spring…”

    1. Yes. If you plant ornamental grasses in spring, you can enjoy them in fall (as noted). Or plant them in fall, enjoy them next fall. Grasses are super tough – plant them whenever is good for you!! (Water regularly until established)

  1. I can just imagine you waving your arms emphasising the lovely movement of grasses in the wind!
    I thought I was the only one who could not keep my arms still in my gardening lectures!

    1. HA!! It’s always been amazing to me that someone can stand still behind a podium and talk about gardening – that’s a talent I do not possess! ASHS etc. research presentations…I can do static. Spooks ’em if you’re animated in any way.

  2. I just (mistakenly?) bought several ornamental grasses (it’s a long story…). It is mid-November in Massachusetts with temperatures dipping unusually low into the mid-thirties. Should I plant these grasses or find a way to store them through the winter?

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